By Evelyn Osagie
The Nigerian Centre of PEN International (PEN Nigeria), has kicked off an online literary series, tagged: Creative Writing Workshop.
The maiden edition, which was held via Zoom, was on poetry.
It had writers and budding writers, including students in attendance.
According to PEN Nigeria President, Folu Agoi, the online clinic was a first of more to come, adding that the workshop was not only geared towards promoting literature, but also boosting the writing skills of writers.
He said: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we, at PEN Nigeria, decided to keep creativity alive against the odds by holding virtual events. There would be more of such workshops and the discussions around literature. Although we’ve started with poetry, we would also be holding workshops on prose fiction and playwriting. The series would be platforms for mentoring aspiring writers, even as it seeks to inspire writers. The focus is also to defend the linguistic rights of individuals, while seeking to hone the skill of writers.”
The session, moderated by PEN General Secretary, Dagga Tolar, had two poets, Akeem Lasisi and Dr. Niran Okewole, as speakers.
The poets spoke on what good poetry should be about, insisting that poets’ mastery of the language was the first step in the pursuit of creative writing, particularly poetry.
Okewole, who set the tone on what poetry is or should be, said: “Poetry as a vocation not a hustle.” In pursuit of poetic excellence, he urged writers to first “know the rules of the language”, stating that although “poets break the rules of grammar intentionally to make a point, mastery is key” in the poetic vocation.
Making a distinction between performance and literary poetry, he, therefore, charged new and upcoming writers to “read more, write more in the devotion to craft of poetry’’.
On the question of whether or not skill of poetry could be taught, Niran noted that the skill could actually be transferred. He said: “There is an innate impulse which drives one in the direction of poetry, and that is required in a poet.”
On his part, performing poet and journalist Lasisi, said: “Poetry can be taught and studied. You can help people discover their talents in poetry; you can teach people how to write better poetry. The fact that it is for the stage for performance shouldn’t make it watery. Research and reading are key to developing the craft; train and retrain yourself in the use of the language; poetic license is real but is not to be abused. Aspiring poets should take advantage of technological tools, such as the social media to express their words.”